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A working of color

Wisps of cloud diluted the perfect blue of the morning sky, reducing its rich color to a softer hue. Young leaves, bright with life, glowed in the light of the rising sun. Dancing green lights they seemed, as a warm breeze awoke them from slumber. Beyond the sentinel mountain that overshadowed this valley, the sun brought the promise of a perfect day, its yellow rays coaxing vivid summer colors out of all things that fell beneath its gaze.

A tentative hand reached into the branches of a tree and plucked free a large red fruit, its rind as rich and dark as blood. Not an apple was this, he knew. It was too early in the season. The fruit’s sudden appearance had surprised him, considering this was a tree long thought barren. Compulsion, not conscious thought, brought the fruit to his lips, where the sharp white peaks of his teeth pierced the rind. The fruit nearly burst from the wound, and dark juices ran down the man’s chin as he chewed.

This is just me, writing as far as I can after starting with nothing. No ideas, save for what popped into my head right before I sat down. No plan. The only goal is to write until the baloney runs out.

Usually, writers will recommend that you can’t write effectively unless you sequester yourself in a quiet room with no distractions, whether visual, auditory, or Internet-y. You need to be focused, wholly devoted to the art that is splashing upon the page as dripped by typing fingers than can usually concoct a better analogy than this.

But for this exercise, I’m sitting in the living room, which is our primary communal area in the house. Scout our dog is continually dropping a slobbery ball on my lap. Benji keeps running over, updating me on his play using non-verbal sounds. Sam is sharing Internet memes. Kirsten and I are talking about her work day. Hopefully, she’ll confirm that I’m actively participating.

If you care to read beyond this introduction, I can’t promise you’ll read anything particularly compelling. I might not even review it before I post this. I’m hoping at the very least, it’s grammatically correct (as far as my character goes). Perhaps most importantly, this entire post will be at least 500 words, which is more than I wrote yesterday. It all adds up. It all counts toward the improvement of my writing. Read on, if you dare; send feedback, if you care.

BTW, I wrote this introduction during the writing that you are about to read. I’m sooooo not a linear writer.

BTW2, the computer died in the middle of this, but it didn’t kill my momentum.

*     *     *     *     *

The world is full of good people. You know the ones. The neighbor who cuts that shared bit of lawn between your houses. The mom of your son’s teammate who offers who drive him home after baseball practice. Even that person who opens the door when your arms are full of groceries.

I used to be one of those people. I lived in a nice house with my second wife Marlene and adopted son Josh. I drove kids around. Grilled with the neighbors. Helped people move in. Helped ’em move out. I was a pretty good guy. People used to tell me so, so it’s not just me talking out of my ass.

My job was going well. Recently been promoted, so the bump in pay was great. Sure allowed the paycheck to be stretched further than usual. That seemed to smooth over some of the rough patches Marlene and me had. They were always saying that money was one of the biggest stresses on a marriage. And it might have been for us, except for Marlene’s ex: Bertrand.

His first name’s Murray, but everyone called him Bertrand because that’s how you address cops, whether you’re cop or you know a cop. Always introduced by last name. You probably couldn’t even get his attention by saying “Murray”. Not that you’d want to get his attention. Suspicious sonuvabitch, but then again, most cops figure, they stare at someone long enough, a person’ll confess some dirty secret. And they’re usually right. Bertrand was especially right.

So with this set up, you’re probably already thinking, It’s another good cop gone bad story. The cop in it, he’s the bad guy. Since I’m also a cop, and since I used to be a good guy, yeah, I guess I’d say you’re not far off. My story is about the good cop who went wrong. Way wrong.

But I’d goddamned if that piece of shit Bertrand was going to kill them and not suffer for it.

*     *     *     *     *

And there you go.

I’ve discovered that longer and longer breaks are occurring between writing attempts. The fear is that eventually, there will be no more attempts.

For someone who enjoys writing as much as I do, this is, of course, unacceptable. I think that, in addition to increasing responsibilities over the last few years, I’ve had a diminishing community of writing people around me. My friend and one-time collaborator has given up writing to focus on a different enterprise. I’m no longer engaging with writers on Twitter. My blog has remained dormant. I’ve seemed to know fewer people making serious attempts to write on a regular basis.

But things are changing. Finally. Though I say this in surprise at the amount of time that has passed since I was serious about writing. I’m discovering the hidden talents of coworkers. My wife and son have written intriguing stories this last year. I’m doing more writing at work, allowing me to flex the important parts of my brain whilst shaking off rust that has accumulated on the joints of my fingers.

Certainly, you need to write to write. It’s a stupidly obviously statement. But it is true. The more you write, the more you can write (he says, making another stupidly obvious and trite statement). And to accompany that, you need to surround yourself with discussions about writing, about creation, about art. You need read and read and read. You need to create an environment for yourself where, even when you’re not writing, you’re writing. When done correctly, I’ve found the ideas flowed like exhaled breath to the page, effortless and natural.

So, all of that said (he says, using a terrible segue and allowing for another parenthetical aside), I come to the inspiration of this post. I love to hear from writers about writing. I consume every word as a morsel of inspiration. I read this blog post by one of the writers of Community, a show I tried and failed to enjoy. He tells an expletive-laced story about going to write for the show. Whether you know the show is irrelevant, but I think he delivers an important, expletive-laced message. I can boil it down to “writing is re-writing”, but that’s not as much fun to read.

How Writing for the TV Show “Community” Cured Me

I’ve had a few people ask about the friend whose story I’m reading. His name is Christopher Ochs and this is the second book he’s completed.

Here is his first: http://www.amazon.com/Boathouse-Christopher-Ochs/dp/1438221169/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1304088326&sr=1-1

The Western flavor of the new one is more attuned to my liking, though I have read the romance that is The Boathouse at least 3 times.

I’m still reading the new manuscript, though why I haven’t finished is no commentary on the work itself. I’ve just been busy with (insert lame excuse here). But it’s travelled with me since I turned the first page, meaning that it smells of campfire smoke, is slightly wrinkled from pouring rain, and may have a small food stain. And of course, a few handwritten notes in my characteristic sticks-n-slashes handwriting.

.

I”ll be reading a friend’s manuscript tonight. I’m kind of excited because I enjoy reading people’s rough drafts. It’s a great way to see into the writing process of others and it helps me polish my own editing and storytelling skills. But more than that, it’s a way to re-inspire me. I’ve found that, aside from a brand new idea popping into my head, reading what someone else is doing is like throwing gasoline on a fire. I’ve done some of my best writing after reading or discussing a friend’s work.

His story is a Western that he’s been working on for a couple years. We haven’t talked about it much since he first told me was starting it–aside from brief conversations about how it was going–so I’m coming to it fresh (meaning, I won’t be able to tell whether anything has changed from his original concept, which can be distracting).

This comes at a great time for me since I’m kicking around a Western story of my own. Neither one of us are actually Western enthusiasts (purists?), though I grew up on John Wayne movies and Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns. And he has done research of his own during the writing of his book. This can be both good and bad. Both of us could bring a fresh perspective to the genre, though at the same time, we might miss the things that the great Western stories always have. We’ll see.

Now I just need to find a cozy spot.

–M

PS: Ugh, my writing this morning is like a washboard gravel road. Need more coffee.

Damned Dusty update

A few characters are being fleshed out in my mind, but the difficulty is not falling into the beloved clichés of the Western genre. There will be no white hats, no hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold characters, and no mustachioed bad guys.

The hero himself is a bit of a villain, but not the villain. I haven’t determined his Civil War loyalties, though I know he found himself on the wrong side with both factions.

There will be a love interest–probably more than one. I do not consider him a ladies’ man, however. He’s a huricane that just happens to make landfall sometimes.

Oh, and no tumbleweeds.

That Damned Dusty Man

I started working on a new story last night during the Oscars. It’s in my head right now, but will soon solidify into actual words on a page. I can always tell when it’s a story I’m going to write down because it sticks in my head–it doesn’t fade like an unimportant daily encounter. It was there when I woke up today and as I showered. I dwelled on it as I drove to work. I’ve been thinking about it at my desk today, too.

The working title, That Damned Dusty Man, popped into my head last night as I again thought about how few Westerns are made anymore. I don’t have a character name yet, aside from his description in the title. But I have some background already. I know how his life ends and the story starts with that.

Most of my writing so far has centered around horror, fantasy, or children’s, though I’ve scrawled out some notes over the years with ideas for Western plot points. We’ll see where it goes from here.

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